Subject: Papua Leaders Reject Military Command Project

The Jakarta Globe

November 26, 2009

Papua Leaders Reject Military Command Project

by Christian Motte & Markus Junianto Sihaloho

Plans by the Armed Forces to establish a second military command in Papua were rejected by an assembly of the province’s cultural leaders on Tuesday, saying the one currently in place was enough.

Yance Kayame, a member of the Papuan Peoples’ Assembly (MRP), said it would be more reasonable to improve the military command already based in the provincial capital of Jayapura. “Papua does not need two military commands,” Kayame said. “What the Armed Forces could do is optimize the one currently in place.”

Maj. Gen. AY Nasution heads the XVII Cenderawasih military command in Jayapura, one of seven situated across the country tasked with, among other things, keeping the nation’s international borders secure.

Kayame said it would be better if all aspects of the Jayapura military command — including logistics and personnel — were improved.

“What the Armed Forces could do is expand the capabilities of the Koramil [district-level military headquarters] and the Korem [subdistrict offices] because of the vast provincial territory of Papua,” Kayame said

“But [any reinforcements] shouldn’t just be military in nature. The military command should be able to help in developing the communities in the province, while keeping the peace.”

Two other members of the MRP, a group of Papuan tribal leaders whose main objective is to preserve the province’s cultural heritage, also put down the military’s plans.

Hana Hikoyabi, the assembly’s deputy chairman, said adding an additional military command was not urgently needed in Papua and that programs addressing social issues of poverty and the overall development of the province were much more relevant.

Jhon Rustan, another MRP member, said the military command in Jayapura was already suffering from a budget shortfall. “That problem has affected the way the military command has functioned in Papua,” Jhon said.

Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Christian Zebua said the assembly’s issues did not reflect the opinion of the general population in Papua and would still push through with its plans.

“We have no problem with the criticism, but I don’t think the rest of the province shares the MRP’s sentiments,” Zebua claimed.

“Besides, this is all just in the planning stages. We still need to find out how much the government is willing to spend to make this project a reality.”

The Armed Forces (TNI) plans to establish a military command in West Kalimantan in 2010, while a study to develop one in Papua is expected to be initiated next year.

During his appointment as Army chief earlier this month, Lt. Gen. George Toisutta said he would follow up on the military command proposals.

Military commands are designated in strategic areas around the country and are tasked to subdue conflicts caused by local insurgents or foreigners who have illegally crossed the Indonesian borders.

But critics of the military command system say that the senior officers were too involved in community affairs and prone to

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